No. 17 Florida State (21-6, 10-6 ACC) fell to Georgia Tech (18-10, 9-8 ACC) by a 65-62 score today in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech jumped out to a 9-2 early lead after a Lotta-Maj Lahtinen layup. Coach Sue Semrau called a timeout to settle her team down. The Noles responded with a 9-2 run of their own to tie the score at 11. From there the teams mostly traded baskets until another Lahtinen layup at the buzzer gave the Yellow Jackets a 19-17 lead going into the second quarter.
The two teams started the second quarter even but FSU made a move midway through the quarter. The Seminoles hit the Jackets with a 10-3 run to take a 31-28 lead with about two minutes left. Lorela Cubaj’s made jumper broke the run but Nicki Ekhomu hit a triple with the clock running down to give the Noles a 34-30 lead at the half.
The two teams traded baskets to start the half but the Seminoles got some breathing room with a quick 5-0 mini-run to take a 45-36 lead with 4:34 left in the quarter. However, GT would have a massive response. The Jackets answered with a huge 16-2 run to end the quarter taking a 52-47 lead into the fourth quarter.
The game was evenly played to start the fourth. Every time FSU looked to be building momentum Tech had an answer. GT stretched the lead to 61-54 with six minutes left in the game but FSU fought back. The Seminoles went on a 6-0 run to come within one at 61-60.
Kierra Fletcher hit a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to give the Jackets a 63-60 lead. Kiah Gillespie worked her way inside and scored on a nice back to the basket move and she drew the foul. Unfortunately she missed the free throw. With 24 seconds left GT called timeout and advanced the ball. Ekhomu fouled Francesca Pan to stop the clock. Pan, an 83% free throw shooter, split a pair to give GT a 64-62 lead. After Gillespie got the board, FSU called timeout to advance the ball with 22 seconds left. After working the ball around the Noles found Kourtney Weber open for a corner three. Weber’s shot missed and after securing the rebound GT advanced the ball. Nausia Woolfolk fouled Fletcher to stop the clock. Fletcher made one of two and the Noles had life only down three. Weber got the board and Ekhomu took the ball down court with eight seconds left. Ekhomu was forced into taking a challenged three that didn’t go in and the Noles couldn’t complete the come back falling 65-62.
Nicki Ekhomu led the Seminoles with 21 points. Kourtney Weber had 12 (all in the first half) while Kiah Gillespie had nine points and 10 boards.
This was the first time this year that FSU has lost while leading at halftime.
The Seminoles had their chances to win this game but Georgia Tech won primarily because they roughed up the Noles on the backboards. GT won the rebounding battle 37-28 including a crucial 12 offensive boards.
Florida State also failed to recognize that GT only had one three point shooter who seemed capable of making shots. Francesca Pan went 6-13 from deep. The rest of the team was 0-4. FSU simply needed to make someone else beat them from behind the arc. Allowing such a hot shooter to take 13 threes was poor defense.
Offensively the Noles did enough to win the game. However, the defense and rebounding need to improve in order to consistently beat good teams.
This was a costly loss. Regarding the NCAA Tournament FSU now needs to reach at least the ACC Tournament final to have a realistic chance at a top four seed. Even then the Noles would likely need help. However, if the Seminoles actually won the ACC title that would almost certainly get them a top four seed assuming wins against Clemson and Notre Dame to close the regular season.
This loss drops Florida State into a tie with Boston College and Virginia Tech for fourth place in the ACC one-half game behind idle Duke who is alone in third. FSU needs to stay in the top four to secure the double-bye in the ACC Tournament. Fortunately for the Noles they have the easiest schedule to finish the season. Duke finishes with three straight roadies at #10 NC State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. VT finishes at home against Duke and on the road at #5 Louisville. BC finishes with roadies at Louisville and Syracuse. FSU will probably finish with six losses. Duke will probably finish with six or seven losses. BC and VT will finish with seven or eight losses. This means that FSU’s chances of remaining in the top four of the ACC are quite high assuming that they can take care of business against a pair of bottom feeders.
Florida State will host Clemson (7-20, 3-13 ACC) on Thursday in the annual “Paint it Pink” game. The game will tip at 7pm and will be broadcast on RSN.